Just after 7am this morning, the first trains on the Elizabeth line were able to run from the edges of the line directly through the central core tunnels.

Since it opened, the Elizabeth line has effectively been three separate services:

  • Abbey Wood to Paddington
  • Reading/Heathrow to Paddington
  • Shenfield to Liverpool Street

From today, it’s a fully connected service, with trains from Shenfield now running through to Paddington, and from Reading/Heathrow right through to Abbey Wood.

No more changing at Paddington and Liverpool Street to swap lines.

The first train from Shenfield to Paddington calling at Stratford station at 7:46am

Overnight, lots of platform signs were changed to remove the old split line layout to show the permanent layout with through trains. There’s still some to be done, and the trains haven’t had their internal maps changed.

Staff at stations are handing out explanatory leaflets about the change, and there’s a new tube map leaflet in some of the stations.

The other visual change though is the digital signs in the stations. In the core tunnels, they’ve only shown trains to Paddington or to Abbey Wood, and now they’re showing trains to Reading, to Heathrow, to Shenfield.

Staff display screen at Woolwich station.

On board, the trains, tannoy announcements when approaching Whitechapel station from the east now tell you to change there for trains to Reading and Heathrow, and when approaching Liverpool Street from the east no longer tell you to change for trains to Shenfield.

Whitechapel has been chosen as the station to recommend changing at, as it’s the more convenient one due to its layout and has more side passages to get between the two platforms.

Apart from the obvious timetable change, the biggest change, already noticeable is in how passengers use the line.

Heading into central London there’s always been some passengers on the Elizabeth line with luggage, but this morning there were loads of passengers with luggage. Yes, it’s been possible to get the Elizabeth line from Heathrow to central London changing at Paddington, but a decent percentage of people would have changed to the London Underground. Now, there’s direct through trains, and the impact is immediate and visible in how passengers are using the line.

That means a more convenient journey for people travelling to/from Heathrow on the Elizabeth line, but also fewer passengers with luggage on the London Underground, so the tube trips are less crowded and there’s more space for passengers.

And after all, rail upgrades are all about the passengers.

The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, said: “I’m delighted that from Sunday people will be able to benefit from fast and direct Elizabeth line services into central London, seven days a week. This development is a huge moment for the capital’s connectivity, revolutionising the way we travel across London, allowing people to travel from Stratford in the east of London to Paddington in the west of London in just 19 minutes, and Ealing Broadway to Canary Wharf in just over 30 minutes.”

Passengers can now also use the Elizabeth line seven days a week following the start of Sunday services through central London. The frequency of services in the central section between Paddington and Whitechapel has increased from 12 trains per hour all day to up to 22 trains per hour in peak times and 16 trains per hour during off-peak.

Next May there will be one more change to the service, raising peak hour trains from 22 trains per hour to 24 trains per hour through the central core tunnels. That will also remove the temporary delay on some trains approaching Paddington station where they are held outside the platforms at the moment.

The changes also open up a new train nerd achievement to be unlocked.

The vast majority of trains will run through the core tunnels at Liverpool Street and Paddington, but a small number of early morning trains will still use the mainline station platforms. And now those services that were last week a routine event are now a rarity to try to catch – just because it has to be done.

A sign never seen before on the Elizabeth line as the train approaches Whitechapel station

Sign at Liverpool Street station telling customers to use the tunnel platforms from today.

A shadow on the wall at Liverpool Street station where a sign used to tell people to go up to the mainline platforms for the Shenfield branch.

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17 comments
  1. Andy T says:

    Has it been mentioned, and I haven’t seen, what the slow line between Stratford and Liverpool Street will be used for since it will be rarely used by Elizabeth Line services now?

    • Brian Butterworth says:

      @Andy T

      There are a few timetabled Elizabeth Line services each day that will continue to use those lines.

      The 0519, 0526, 0807, 0837 and 0031 from Stratford will still go to the mainline Liverpool Street and the other way they leave at 0525, 0539, 0554, 1735, 180 and 0055.

      Basically this is service poor old District Line Olympia gets!

  2. HoosierSands says:

    Thanks for being there Ian. Can’t wait to use it next week.

    An added bonus-I’ll be looking forward to less luggage and their owners on the Piccadilly Line.

  3. Brian Butterworth says:

    I suppose, speculatively, it could be used to extend the services that terminate at Stratford to Meridian Water and/or Hertford East.

    Or, perhaps, an alternative route for the Stansted Express trains to get from Liverpool Street to Tottenham Hale so that the London Overground Services that run though Clapton to Chingford could have more capacity.

    • John Leeming says:

      The trouble is that the lines you mention above are on the wrong side of the tracks, and would need to cross over the main lines to get to the ‘slow lines’. That sounds like a timetabling nightmare.

    • Andy T says:

      I would think that if capacity was to be increased the timetabling wouldn’t need to be much of a problem, surely the fast line could cross over to the slower line at some point between the Elizabeth Line portal and the Bethnal Green junction.

  4. Pete says:

    Are there any plans for trains from Sheffield to go direct to Heathrow or will they always need to change at Whitechapel?

    • Pete says:

      *shenfield. Sorry, autocorrect.

    • Si says:

      The final phase of the phased opening, scheduled for May, is trains being able to run through at both ends allowing a further off-peak frequency boost from 16tph across zone 1 to 20tph.

      This would make direct GEML-GWML trains both possible and likely. It is, however, unconfirmed at the moment what the post-May timetable would look like.

    • alistair twin says:

      I think they will but it’s not a big pain at the moment as it’s the same platform and trains are going to be every 4 mins ish. even if you were able to go direct you are as likely to take the next train to whitchapel and wait there for the first heathrow one especially if you are going to t4 or t5

  5. John says:

    Has 4G been deployed yet throughout the line and tunnels? Long overdue.

    • Woolwich Resident says:

      Not for me, the longer I can avoid having to hear passengers having conversations/playing videos/music on the speaker of their phone the better!

    • ianVisits says:

      Do you object to two people sitting next to each other having a natter, or only if it’s one person sitting there nattering to someone on a phone?

  6. Janes Miller says:

    Yesterday, I did a trip from Abbey Wood to Ilford with a reverse at Whitechapel.

    Outside of Canary Wharf and Stratford, the trains were not as full.

    Given the problems of the Dartford Crossing, I suspect some will change to Lizzie and use that route.

    Whitechapel will become a very important rail station.

    • Geoff Brown says:

      Agreed on value of Whitechapel for interchange, including District and E.London lines.
      Can someone who knows how get the Stratford- Whitechapel section to show on Google Maps?

  7. Jord says:

    Wonder if we hear from residents in Shoreditch about building a tube station under Shoreditch High Street again?

    • Londoner2a says:

      Shoreditch is already connected to the London Underground at Old Street and so already exists…

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